Fifty Women in Music Who Deserve Their Own Biopics

After seeing the Elton John biopic Rocketman last week, I began thinking about all the women in music who should have their story told on the silver screen. Rocketman was an interesting film but I was disappointed by the fact that they mentioned Mama Cass, going so far as to recreate her home for a party scene and yet the woman herself did not appear on screen – not even for a fleeting cameo (Kiki Dee didn’t fare much better either but at least she had a line). Like many women in music history Cass appeared sidelined in favour of the bigger story of the man.

Afterwards it got me thinking about the impact of these big budget mainstream music biopics. Bohemian Rhapsody has been staggeringly successful and introduced Queen’s music to a whole new audience, as well as reigniting the passion of long time fans. Whatever you thought of the quality of the movie it’s impossible to deny the music and its crowd-pleasing heart.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the equivalent women of the era were given the same opportunity to be celebrated? I’ve heard there is a Madonna script called ‘Blond Ambition’ which was bought by a major studio but since she is unhappy with the content it is unlikely to go ahead. Both the Queen and Elton movie relied on approval and involvement from the acts themselves.

Most of the music biopics about women which have been made concern them overcoming extreme difficulty or tragedy like What’s Love Got to Do With It, or La Vie En Rose. But not every woman’s story needs to be this ‘inspirational’ or ‘worthy’. Freddie died a horrible, tragic death and you are unlikely to find a more self-centred egotist in music than Elton John but both these films have been entertaining and appealing because they explore the flaws, not in spite of them. The Bob Dylan film I’m Not There had a more experimental style which could be the template for more alternative biopics. Whatever way, we need to tell stories about women so their music can be shared as far and wide as possible.

So here’s a list of fifty amazing artists, in no particular order (except Dolly had to go first obviously) whose lives and music deserve to be heard on the big screen – many of these women have already written excellent biographies which could easily be adapted into screenplays. Thanks to everyone on Twitter for these suggestions (feel free to add more in the comments).

1. Dolly Parton

2. Cass Elliott

3. Ronnie Spector

4. Janis Joplin

5. Lulu

6. Tammy Wynette

7. Bobbie Gentry

8. Esther Phillips

9. Aretha Franklin

10. Darlene Love

11. Dusty Springfield

12. Donna Summer

13. Cher

14. Linda Ronstadt

15. Joan Baez

16. Minnie Riperton

17. Martha Reeves

18. Karen Dalton

19. Stevie Nicks

20. Joni Mitchell

21. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

22. Kate Bush

23. Debbie Harry

24. Tanya Tucker

25. Maybelle Carter

26. Patti Smith

27. The Slits / Viv Albertine

28. Courtney Love

29. Lucinda Williams

30. Elizabeth Cotten

31. Grace Jones

32. Laura Nyro

33. Etta James

34. Alice Coltrane

35. Sharon Jones

36. Ani DiFranco

37. Judee Sill

38. Sandy Denny

39. Erma Franklin

40. Emmylou Harris

41. Grace Slick

42. Ann Wilson

43. Mavis Staples

44. Carole King

45. Madonna

46. Pat Benatar

47. Tammi Terrell

48. Whitney Houston

49. THE SUPREMES (and no Dreamgirls does not count)


So now you’ve read the list your challenge is to pick one and start writing the screenplay. Time’s a wastin’ people! Lets make this happen!

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